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When one thinks of the most popular drink in Italy, wine comes immediately to mind – from the famous reds of the Chianti region to the bubbles of Prosecco the choices are endless. In the past decade, however, another kind of drink has become more and more important, conquering the hearts of Italians young and old alike and becoming a staple not only during the summer: beer in general, and craft beer in particular, are now so popular that breweries and brew pubs are a sought after destination much like wineries and restaurants were in the past. Visiting a brewery is fun and educational and gives a chance to try different kind of beers, usually made with organic ingredients and paired with local food specialties. From North to South Italy is dotted with thousands of these craft beer breweries: we have selected some of the best that, in recent years, have produced the tastiest, most refreshing brews of the land, winning prestigious awards and making Italy known for its craft beers as well as its wines.
BIRRA DEL BORGO (LAZIO): the folks at Birra del Borgo have been brewing beer since 2005 and, today, they produce 25 amazing brews with stunning labels and tongue in cheek names that range from the classic Reale, an India Pale Ale, to the bizarre CastagnAle, a chestnut beer. Every month they pick a weekend to open their doors to visitors: guided tours are free, last about an hour and include some beer tasting. Info: http://www.birradelborgo.it/en/
BIRRIFICIO VALCAVALLINA (LOMBARDY): set by a lake in a beautiful valley not far from Bergamo, this Birrificio aims to produce only the best natural non-filtered and non-pasteurized beers. The Sunflower golden ale has recently won the Italian “Beer of the year” award, while the Cavallina blonde won the year before. Tours of the brewery can be arranged by contacting the Birrificio through their website: http://www.birrificiovalcavallina.com/
BIRRIFICIO STATALE NOVE (EMILIA ROMAGNA): large and well equipped, this brewery near Bologna features a tasting station perfect for trying their amazing variety of beers that include Gold –brewed with pears– and Miss Kartola, a dark amber winner of many awards. For more information about Statale Nove visit http://www.statalenove.it/
FABBRICA DELLA BIRRA PERUGIA (UMBRIA): the Fabbrica della Birra –Beer Factory– only produces 6 beers, but they all are of the highest quality, from the classic golden ale to the daring ILA Scotch ale. Opened in 1875, the brewery closed in 1927 and its doors remained shut until the early 2000s when a group of young beer enthusiasts brought it back to its old glory. For tours and more info: http://www.birraperugia.it
BIRRANOVA (APULIA): a stunning brewery with its own brew pub to welcome visitors and beer aficionados – Birranova pairs great beer with great food, whether you are looking for traditional Bavarian cuisine or local Apulia specialties. Along with classic lagers and ales, the “Why not?” line features one of their best brews: Check Point is a blend of American and German hops brewed together to perfection. For information: http://www. birraartigianalepugliese.it
BIRRIFICIO DEL FORTE (TUSCANY): In the heart of Versilia, on the Tuscan coast, this brewery may be small but produces a variety of beers that satisfy all palates. With their vintage inspired labels, the beers produced at the Birrificio del Forte are brewed using local ingredients and are so rich in taste they are better savored with food: the 2 Cilindri, a dark yet round brew, is perfect with local roasted fish. Tours can be arranged through the website: http://www.birrificiodelforte.it/
MC77 (MARCHE): a simple, yet winning philosophy makes this small brewery special. Their beers are all made with only four ingredients –water, malt, hops and yeast– and they are then flavored with spices and other natural ingredients typical of their surroundings. Rich in flavor and easy to drink, their brews are unique as their names: the Hapanero –American brown ale with habanero– and Mild the gap, a British inspired ale, are just two examples. For more information: http://www.mc-77.com/
BIRRIFICIO SAN MICHELE (PIEDMONT): located in an old building from the 1800s, this brewery produces unique beers whose names are inspired by famous operas. Aida has a smoky flavor that comes from smoking malts on beech wood, while La Valchiria is a well rounded weizen with a fruity aroma. Visiting this brewery makes for an interesting couple of hours: you can book the visit through the website at http://www.birrasanmichele.it/